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Oxygen and Aromasia

by Claës Lundin

translated by Bertil Falk

Table of Contents
Chapter 19
Chapter 20, part 2
appear in this issue.
Chapter 20: The New School

part 1 of 2

“Your son seems to be somewhat old to enter a school,” the headmaster Cerebrarius said to bank director Giro, who had gone to Södertälje to put his son in the new brain school.

“He’s just reached the age of five,” Giro objected.

“Strictly speaking, he’s two years too old,” the headmaster explained, “but this semester we can accept above the age limit. Beginning next semester, that will be prohibited. Then the new law of instruction will be fully implemented, and it demands that the brain to be cultivated must not be older than three years. This regulation will be carefully observed.”

“Will girl brains be treated as early?”

“Of course! We don’t live in the days when a girl was not supposed to need as intensive education as a boy. To be well educated, a brain must be as young as possible, whether male or female.”

“Is there any fee?” Giro asked,

“Fee! What a funny question,” the headmaster exclaimed. “Do you think that we in our time would let the individual pay to get children’s brains educated? No, thank you! We don’t have such antiquated opinions. The Government pays for all education and recovers its expenses through progressive taxation, whereby everyone pays according to his means.

“But then the Government also forces every male and female citizen to put their children in school. Subterfuges make no difference. It’s not like the old days, when there was a difference between secondary school and elementary school.”

“That was a revolting discrimination!” Giro exclaimed.

“A shameful business,” the headmaster added, “that from childhood on widened the abyss between the classes. The little man who went to secondary school considered himself to be better than the boy in elementary school. He despised and made fun of him and would never accept him as a playmate.

“The pupils in elementary school learned in childhood to envy and hate the other classes. When the students had training in the use of arms, those from the secondary school formed a troop, and those from the elementary school formed another troop. And during recesses it was out of the question that the two groups approached each other and they even less amused themselves with mutual games. They did not talk to each other. It was as if they belonged to different tribes who didn’t understand each other’s languages. They were satisfied with regarding each other at a distance or pretending not to see each other. In that way class distinction and class hatred found fertile soil.”

“And what happened when they entered the conscript army?”

“Then they all had the same duties, it was said, but at the end of the 19th century they introduced something called the “one-year volunteer,” who by no means had the same obligations as other conscripts. They were excused from duty for much more time and were treated by the officers in command with much more mercy. A youth who had gone through elementary school could never apply as a “one-year volunteer,” because he did not have the necessary knowledge. That was the equity of the time.”

“I remember that I once read that girls were not admitted to elementary school, but it sounds so strange that I’ve banished the information to the realm of fairy tales.”

“Well, five hundred years ago there was not a single girl in any of the government’s elementary schools. The government didn’t consider itself able to afford education for girls. It also feared that if the girls were given cost-free education, they would learn too much and by that be drawn from the calm world of the home; that is, she would decline to be a maid servant for the man, the lord of creation, as he was called.”

“It sounds impossible,” Giro said. “Could they not have made joint-stock companies of some schools and thereby made the government redundant?”

“They put the money into completely different joint-stock companies. They built cafés or bought Braunschweiger stock and Hamburg lottery tickets, held dinners and balls and found thousand different ways to get rid of their money as fast as possible.”

“Well, economics was still in its bud or did not exist at all. That’s visible when it comes to their small, naive attempts at banking institutions.”

“The times had not progressed far in any respect... But now let us talk about your son, Mr. Giro. As you know, according to the new law of education, you have the right to only one-third of your child’s brain. One-third is reserved for the owner to develop it as it wants, while the last third, according to the one hundred and eleventh paragraph of the education law, must get its instruction in a public school established and maintained by the government.”

“Have I no right to express any desire as to the purpose of the education of this third part?” Giro asked.

“Oh, yes,” the headmaster assured. “You can decide for what specific occupation you want to educate your child’s brain and, accordingly, what subjects the education should include, but only until the child reaches maturity and can change your decision and choose another profession.

“To begin with, the general knowledge that is common to all citizens of both sexes must be taught, and that’s totally independent of the parent’s wishes. However, general knowledge cannot be communicated until the child’s brain is cultivated in such a way that it can receive the learning that will be given later. That arrangement was completely neglected in the past, partly because of overstrain. Not even up to our time has enough been done to prepare the brain mechanically, that is, physiologically for the assimilation of future school subjects. But now the new law of education has...”

“Yes, I know that law,” Giro interrupted. He had found the headmaster’s explanations somewhat time-consuming. He would found a dozen new joint-stock companies later that day but as yet had not founded even one.

“Well, then you know the law,” the headmaster resumed, “and therefore you know that the new school is divided into a brain school and a university nowadays. The brain school prepares the pupil for the reception of knowledge, and the university teaches the subjects...”

“Perhaps even in a mechanical way?” Giro put in.

“Hm! That’s as yet not decided. For six hundred years we’ve been occupied with annual attempts to do that here in this country. It is true that the academic knowledge has also been communicated in a mechanical way, but it seems we’re now in a transitional stage. The educationalists and the lawmakers primarily direct their attention to the preparatory school and expect significant and blessed results from physiological preparation...

“But now that I’ve enrolled your son, won’t you take a look at our brain school? You’ll see it with you own eyes and be able to make sure that it’s excellent.”

The bank director was anxious about the new joint-stock companies that awaited him, but he could still not refuse the headmaster’s suggestion. He followed Cerebrarius, who walked ahead of him to show him the school. The institution might better have been called a laboratory. The manner of education consisted of children beginning a treatment for two and, later, three hours. They were exposed to galvanic currents that were guided to the parts of the brain to be educated. Moreover, the specific education of the brain cells was supervised, led and promoted through the extremely fine and active means that chemistry had developed and carefully prepared for this purpose.

As far back as one hundred years previously, they had realized the necessity of training and strengthening the rest of the human body through gymnastics. And they knew that a strong and fresh soul cannot exist in a weak and unhealthy body. Thus, even for the education of the soul they had recommended the training and care of muscles and sinews.

Gymnastics had been developed more and more, and in the 24th century they realized it was vital for the whole education of children; it supported and treated the very core of reason. And it gave such an education that afterwards a powerful development of thinking could be attained.

“Here you can see,” the headmaster said to the bank director, “how we carry on the gymnastics of the brain. There’s no sign of overstrain, which they complained about in the schools of the past. With the individual education we practice here, we lay the foundations of formal education and create abilities that will bear rich fruit for mankind.”

“The method seems to be excellent,” Giro exclaimed.

“I dare to assure you that it’s splendid,” said the headmaster, proud of his profession.

“What trouble and what superhuman patience were required of the teacher in the past, before he got the pupil far enough along that he was capable of immersing himself independently in a science. Often the brain had to be cultivated with Latin and Greek, history and mathematics from the earliest childhood. And the pupil had to be brought far in training until he was at last able to think logically and perceive the consistency of occurrences.”

“I guess the teacher didn’t succeed with all brains.”

“Certainly not! The stupid ones could not be helped. The lazy ones were beyond the power of the best teacher’s persevering efforts.”

“But now?”

“Now!” the headmaster exclaimed as he went into joyful raptures. “How easy it is now! A galvanic current working on the lobes of the brain, an even stronger current on the lower part of the crus cerebri, a strengthening treatment of the putamen! And after a couple of years the five-year old human being is ready, without any harmful effect on the development of the body, to begin solving the great problems of science and existence.”

“Splendid!” Giro exclaimed once again. “What a wonderful time-saver!”

“And saving of human power!” the headmaster added.

“In what part of the institution are we now?” Giro asked.

“In the first part for the exact sciences. Here in the first grade, the child is prepared for receiving the knowledge that can make him a mathematician, physicist, chemist and engineer. In the second grade biologists are created, chiefly ethnologists, zoologists, botanists etc.”

“And the other grades?”

“We’re getting there. Here in the second part we have the grades producing logicians, metaphysicians, historians and antiquarians. The grades of the third part are intended for linguistic researchers, orators and authors.”

Proceed to Chapter 20, part 2...

Story by Claës Lundin
Translation copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk

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